catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 24 :: 2003.12.19 — 2004.01.01


Growing family

A few weeks ago, our 4-year-old daughter, Esther, asked me what the word ‘adopted’ meant. After I explained it to her (it’s when someone becomes a part of your family even though they didn’t grow in your belly), I asked her a follow up question: Do you know anyone who’s adopted, Esther?

“Nope”, she replied.

“Actually, you do,” I told her, no longer asking the questions.

“No, I don’t,” she insisted quite adamantly.

Well, you might find that story funny if you could see a picture of our family. While I admit that my husband, Rob, does have darker hair and a darker complexion than I do, that still doesn’t quite account for the adorable Asian child in the middle.

“Esther, you do know someone who is adopted. Your big sister, Hannah, is adopted.”

Hannah came into our family on a warm September evening ten years ago after a 21-hour flight from Seoul, South Korea to LaGuardia International Airport in New York City. I think our experience of looking forward to Hannah’s arrival has some comparisons to our looking forward to Christ’s arrival at Christmas and his final arrival on Judgment Day. And although it usually takes me at least 20 minutes to tell the Hannah story, I’ll try to cover the most important connections in the next few paragraphs.

The story of Hannah’s entrance into our family starts long before September 14, 1999. Before we were married (in 1986), Rob and I talked about wanting to adopt children. (We each expressed a desire for both birth children and adopted children—or ‘homemade’ and ‘ready made’ kids, as my sister sometimes calls them.) About a year after our son Caleb was born we started talking about adoption more concretely. We had heard stories of Chinese baby girls being killed in the delivery room because boys were more desirable and families could only have one child, and that was more than my feminist and maternal heart could take. We started to investigate adoption and quickly found out that while my husband was the required age for Chinese adoption (at that time), I was still too young. So we began exploring other options.

God’s plan for the arrival of his Son the Savior began centuries before the star and the shepherds of the first Christmas. Already in Genesis, shortly after the Fall brings all of the beauty of a perfect creation to a crashing halt, God promises one born of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head. God saw our plight—even more tragic than the fate of unwanted Chinese females—and began working to make life possible and to kill death. And unlike the Lagerweys, God never had to go to plan B.

My initial gift of enthusiasm (“let’s adopt a baby”) gave way to Rob’s gift of filling out endless forms: tracking down his birth certificate (no easy task since he was born in Canada), reading the horrendous photocopies from the INS and other government offices, having tests done, t’s crossed, and i’s dotted. We even had to take 3 different sets of 15 pictures of our family in ordinary activities (the Lagerweys under a tree in front of their house; Caleb and Rob washing the car; Rob, Mary, and Caleb at the breakfast table?).

When we had every form completed, we got a call: would we consider switching the country of our child’s origin from Vietnam to Korea? Sure, I said, my initial excitement returning, but what kinds of pictures did those government officials want? None, the reply came. I laughed. God was showing me something important: my child was going to arrive because of His sovereignty and control, not because of my enthusiasm or even because of Rob’s organizational skills.

Why did Jesus come? Not because of our work but because of our need. While we were yet sinners God sent His Son. Jesus didn’t arrive because the Israelites finally got God’s attention (hey, we could use some help down here!) or because they had finally sacrificed that one millionth animal. NO, Galatians says that when the time had fully come GOD sent His Son—because God is the one who sees the end from the beginning, the same One who knows when Christ’s return will be since the end of time depends only on Him and not on what we’ve done to hasten its arrival. When will that end be? Hmmm…

At least when I was pregnant I had some idea of when that would end—although no one really tells you that if you’re pregnant for 40 weeks that’s really more like 10 months not 9. Caleb was born 5 days past my due date; Esther arrived exactly on the date I told everyone she was due (although at the time I thought I was overestimating). When exactly would Hannah arrive? No one knew for sure and that was more than a little frustrating at times. And we’d have to go through that frustration twice: once just to get the call about what child had been matched with our file and once to see when that amazing child would actually get on a plane and come to this country.

We thought surely that first call would come while we were vacationing in Alaska, but no: Mt. Denali came and went and no call. Back in New Jersey Rob and I probably answered the phone together every time for several days (hello, no, we don’t need another credit card.) Then the call came—July 21, 1999. Was it the right time? It was exactly the right time because God chose it and I didn’t.

Galatians 3:27-4:4 talks about God’s perfect timing:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

When you’re adopting a child you may often specify if you would like a boy or a girl. Rob and I decided not to do that and we were told “if you don’t specify one or the other, you’ll get a boy.” Well, we didn’t. My notes from that phone call on July 21 say one word at the top in capital letters: GIRL! Not what we or anyone else was expecting, but what we needed even if we didn’t know it.


Jesus was certainly not the kind of leader the people of Israel were expecting. Their Messiah was going to fight, to beat up on those nasty Romans and set up Jerusalem as the capital city of a mighty empire. This Saving General would lead like David—killing his tens of thousands and he would rule. The Jesus who would come to a Bethlehem cave in the stink of hay and afterbirth was about as far from those expectations as Hannah was from “you’ll get a boy.”

We don’t know much about Hannah’s birth parents. She’s now one of our family, part of our lineage, she shares my name and heritage. I never introduce her as my adopted daughter. She’s my child, every bit as much as the ones who grew in my belly. She is now one of us: a Lagerwey for better or for worse (we think it’s quite funny that she’s the first of our children to get glasses, considering how nearsighted Rob and I both are!) And isn?t that what the Incarnation is all about? We don’t have to wonder “what if God was one of us?” because He became one of us.

Romans 8:22-25 says,

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. No only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Isn’t it interesting that this passage talks about how we’re all waiting to be adopted into God’s family? And that’s the most amazing connection between a couple of human parents waiting at an airport for an escort to walk from the plane’s gate to where someone is standing to hand them a little bundle wrapped in a yellow Snugli: at the end of the waiting, there’s a gift, a child who changes everything in a moment and a lifetime of mystery and discovery. At the end of this advent season, the same package awaits each of us: a Child who changes everything and, most amazingly of all, makes me one of His children—a child of God myself!


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